BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Spring break tourism is in full swing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and that means the busy summer season isn't far behind. So, what's attracting visitors to the coast?
It should come as no surprise that the beach is a major tourist attraction. The miles of sandy shore and sunshine brought two spring break families here, from northern Illinois.
"We heard such good things about the coast, so we wanted to see, wanted to experience what it's like to be down here," said Ricky Orizada.
"Coming to the beach, seeing the kids play, and enjoy the sun," said Balente Roa of Illinois.
The Illinois families are first time visitors to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And it was word of mouth that brought them here; the recommendation of a relative who'd been here before.
"It's nice here. I like it. We hope to come someday again. Maybe next year," said Roa.
Three friends from Vicksburg are also first time visitors. Though they've never visited the coast, they've heard plenty of positive reviews.
"I have friends who come here a lot. They just say that it's really relaxing and peaceful. It's a nice place to just have early morning walks," said Elle Brown.
"This is also my first time. So when I heard I was going to come down here I heard it was really relaxing, a place to kick up your feet. And we were looking to do some of that, so here we are," added Shy Beatty.
"We like doing a lot of walking out in the sunshine when we're here," said Cathy Sumner of Chicago.
She and her husband, Rich, are repeat visitors. They've enjoyed casino trips to the coast for the past five years. What keeps them coming back?
"The people are really nice also, really friendly people," she said.
"Surprisingly nice. Surprisingly nice for what they've been through. Great," her husband added.
And even though the tourism study found that advertising is building awareness, the majority of visitors I talked with today, said it was "word of mouth" recommendations from family or friends, that brought them to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.